A COMPLETE TREATISE ON BEEEKEEPING
BY ABBA DELLA ROCCA, VICAR GENERAL OF SYRA (*)
With this third volume, we finish what we had to say about the new bee management method, as it is done on the island of Syra. These three published volumes are a complete treatise on this field of rural economics. In the meantime, we plan to supplement our work with one or two other volumes, in which we will present many interesting management practices as well as significant discoveries on the history of our insects that will enrich the knowledge of the amateurs around the life of bees to gain a lasting benefit, as long as the changes of the seasons can allow it on these lands.
And let us now come to honey of the Levante, which in all times was characterized as the best of the earth, especially that of Greece. Count de Carberi, who comes from Cephalonia, gave amateurs and the greatest Parisian experts the chance to taste such honey; they all confessed that it was the best of what they had tasted so far and that all the honey of Narbon, Maon and Spain could not compare with it. Some houses of Versailles and Paris keep honey from Athens and Hymettus, which is preferred always from any other honey.
I do not know if it is my own bias, but from all that I’ve tried, I have not found any other honey as excellent, as perfect as that of Syra’s: especially what is called “virgin”, which we collect from new honeycombs and is produced at the season of thyme blooming and its superiority is remarkable. What usually gives a bad taste to honey is pollen from the flower stamens, or the shells that the nymphs discard and all the heterogeneous materials that can get mixed inside the honeycomb. We can easily see, when using new, clean honeycombs without impurities, that the honey that will flow naturally will be the most exquisite: such is Syra’s honey. It is exported together with the honeycombs to Constantinople, Smyrna and other parts of the East; it is considered the most precious gift.
Generally, the honey of the island has a very bright amber color; it is dense, homogeneous and does not crystalize from sugar. Count De Carberi keeps honey from Cephalonia for more than ten years: it remains fluid, despite the climate of Paris. This honey is so bright, so transparent that we could read through a honey-filled glass jar.
On the island of Chios, they make an exceptional honey, especially in the areas where the mastic gum tree grows—this shrub that gives the famous mastic gum and has given its name to the island. This honey is white and has a delicate aroma; they call it mastic-honey on the island, that is, honey from the mastic.
In the work of M. Peissoneli, the old consul of the king in the Crimea and Smyrna, I read about the Black Sea trade, volume 1, p. 173, that “Crimean honey is considered to be the best in the Ottoman Empire, especially that of the village of Osmantgik which is the most sought after. We do not use any other at his majesty’s table: it has a sweetness and a scent that we cannot find in the honey of Vlachia nor in the honey of Crete.”
I have never heard anyone in Constantinople talking about this famous honey of the Crimea; and generally, what comes to this capital from the side of the Black Sea finds little appreciation; it is considered to be mediocre and badly processed. It is by no means the same as that which comes from the side of the White Sea, particularly from Athens and the Archipelago islands. A respectable person who has also lived in the Crimea and reached the far end at a Tatar camp assured me that the Han finds Poland’s honey superior to that of the Crimea; several people who have tasted Polish honey and honey from the islands of the Archipelago obviously prefer the latter. To sum up, not only Osmantgik residents, but also those of Greece and Athens, and above all the inhabitants of the island of Symi, claim their own honey to be that which will decorate the table of His Majesty. Meanwhile, a trusted person who has been a long-time emissary at the High Gate and who is currently in France has assured me that pure honey is never served at the Monarch’s table.
What is true is that in the Crimea, as well as in the rest of Turkey, a huge amount of honey is used in jams of all kinds in pastry and sherbet:
(A small excerpt from the 3-volume work of 1,500 pages of the Syriot abba DELLA ROCCA for the beekeeping art—1790. In DELLA ROCCA we owe the modern bee hive.)
(*) Here the book in PDF:
Traité complet sur les abeilles : avec une méthode nouvelle de les gouverner, telle qu’elle se pratique à Syra, île de l’Archipel : précédé d’un précis historique et économique / par M. l’abbé Della Rocca. Paris : chez Bleuet, 1790
Browsing through the book of Della Roca
Translated by Constantine Hatziadoniu